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  • Writer's pictureAaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza

FSExpo 2024 Friday Announcements: A.I. Enhanced Flight!


Flight Sim Expo 2024 Skyward Flight Media

Watching the Flight Sim Expo 2024 Friday presentations, it is hard to not believe that the era of artificial intelligence enhanced flight simulation is here in full force. When thinking of artificial intelligence in everyday life use, we think of search engines that aggregate thousands of pages of data, algorithms for use in business investments and the creation of visual art and music.


On June 21st, 2024, four companies presented products during the FSExpo Friday announcements that utilized artificial intelligence less as a silently running tool to increase productivity, but as air traffic controllers, instructors, tour guides and companions. This era of A.I. enhanced flight simming seeks to complete the single player experience by providing interactions that would otherwise be found strictly in multiplayer settings, and enhance the online experience by filling in some well known gaps.


 
Airplane Team: Fly Shirley.com

Fly Shirley seems to be a very new project with an interesting concept that can cross over from flying virtually and flying in the real world. They dub this bridging the gap between "sim and sky". Memorable.


While on stage, Alex List (CEO of Airplane Team, instrumented rated commercial multi-engine pilot) mentioned that the inspiration for this project was in memory of a pilot who had died 2024. It was a notable, personal note to start on. A part of the launch of this project is making training safer and respecting the love for piloting, both in a simulator and in the real world.


Identifying itself as an ‘airplane teammate’ or A.I. co-pilot, Shirley assists with flight operations, guidance through procedures, flight checklists and provides real time information as requested by the human pilot. While in flight, Shirley can update you on heading, airspeed, climb rate, winds, distance to destination and similar data. Its most recent draw is the ability to play, create and share interactive challenges ranging from difficult bush flying landings, detail specific flight plans and other things users and this project’s developers could create.



The recreational version of Shirley is available at a subscription of $30.00 USD per month. According to their website, the professional level of this software is suggested for companies, flight schools and museums to provide coaching even when flight instructors may be unavailable. The subscription for the professional service is currently $100.00 USD per month. 


The impression we had of Fly Shirley was that it was more of a one-on-one companion experience compared to its peers mentioned in this article. Its appeal towards single engine general aviation aircraft is forefront, for sure.


 
Flying Art: Cabby - AI Cabin Crew Announcements

One year ago, Flying Art was founded by its founder, Arthur. Flying Art has produced software that exports data from other existing flight simulation software. Joining their SimBox and SimBrief Panel software is artificial intelligence powered software to experience highly customizable cabin crew announcements. 


Cabby was released roughly eight days ago and as of the time of this article being posted, it has already received eight updates. Cabby is computer performance friendly as it is a cloud based service. Cabby incorporates with SimBrief. Currently available for Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 12, Cabby takes data gathered via SimBrief to generate in flight announcements about flight time, weather information based on METAR and similar information. 


The use of standard voice profiles and custom voice profiles is an interesting aspect of this is product. When flying in different regions of the world, the accents of passengers are audible. A minor but immersion deepening detail. Cabby can import voice recordings of any human willing to provide them to create these announcements not only in their native language, but the voice pattern of that person can be translated into multiple languages they may or may not speak. During the Flight Sim Expo presentation, Arthur’s wife provided a voice sample that was translated from English into German, Spanish, Polish, French and Italian. Specific members of the cabin crew can each have unique voices, making them more identifiable and, again, more immersive. 



Getting to fly with the same cabin crew over the course of many flights is an unusual aspect, but honestly sounds like a very humanizing experience. From the point of view of a simmer that prefers to fly alone, they would now have a familiar crew with them for every flight. 


The base version of Cabby can be purchased for a one-time fee of $29.00 USD with an optional subscription of $12.00 USD a month for a more advanced version. With purported statics like 864 people performing 6543 flights with 182 custom voices and, 921307 characters generated in just eight days, the concept seems to be gaining traction. 


 
SoFly: Cabin Announcement Pro

Since their introduction in August 10th, 2020, SoFly has built its identity on weather presets, in-simulator guides and detailed terrain expansions with many sub-features for Microsoft Flight Simulator. Thinking of SoFly products in general, they have always had a focus on enhancing user experience of piloting an aircraft and the environment around it travels through. 


The introduction of Cabin Announcement Pro is a different type of enhancement by SoFly, but the focus is now on the people that support commercial airline operations both on the ground and at cruising altitude. They made it clear that not every feature has been announced at this time, but so far they presented information about the ground crew and cabin crew interactions. 



Utilizing a voice clip bank with thousands of entries and regional accents, flight simmers can have a more realistic experience with their commercial flights from even before the engines are started. These voice clips are placed into sets and randomized to make each flight feel unique; even down to the basic communications that happen in the aircraft. It should be stated that this is not an artificial intelligence reliant system, but it does fit in with the same goal as the other products mentioned in this article, so it has been included in the conversation. 


Ground crew provide the human pilots with dispatch reports, fuel management, and related information. What normally is a silent, calculated process of proceeding through checklists, is augmented by what seems to be a more grounded experience that involves simple greetings like “good morning” and receiving dispatch reports - just as an example. 


The Cabin Crew interaction made up the bulk of the presentation, understandably, as they do travel with the pilot. While seemingly mundane communications between the flight attendants and passengers may not sound too exciting, understanding that it is these layers of realism that bring simulations closer to real life. 


Cabin Announcement Pro goes beyond safety procedures being recited to passengers and casual discussions between pilots and casual conversations about post-landing plans. Passenger related situations and in-flight emergencies also seem possible. SoFly showed a scenario involving an intoxicated passenger. With situations like illnesses or other unforeseen complications with passengers possible in the simulator, this could prompt the human pilot to work with their airliner crew to coordinate their efforts to stabilize the situation and assess the need for a potential emergency landing. Situations like these would not only test a simmer’s understanding of the aircraft, but also challenge their ability to alter a flight plan and bring the aircraft down quickly and safely. 


I look forward to learning more about the features SoFly has to offer with this product, though I hope one of them is a bit more polishing of voice lines for certain accents. This product does not require a monthly subscription and is sold at a single price. It will be available for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 and 2024. 


 
SayIntentions.AI

Skyward Flight Media is new to artificial intelligence driven air traffic controllers, but it is obvious that SayIntentions.AI has assembled something truly special. After its December 2023 private beta and January 15th, 2024 release, this service is backed with Amazon Web Services, Pilot Speak AI, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Open AI and Nearly Human AI. A part of SayIntentions presence is an immense confidence in their product, and after seeing their presentation at Flight Sim Expo 2024, it is easy to see why. 



SayIntentions.AI seems to be head and shoulders above many of its peers, managed to reduce its monthly subscription to $19.95 USD per month, with the intention to find ways to further reduce that cost in the future. The sheer volume of data needed for navigational assistance both on ground and in the air appears to be of the same level provided by long-standing 100% human run air traffic controller networks like the Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network (VATSIM). Though its coverage expands the globe with twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week availability. Rather than list off four paragraphs of features, this single screenshot may do it:



SayIntentions has some of the most realistic artificial intelligence voices I have genuinely ever heard. There were times when it was hard to tell when a human or AI was speaking at times. With so many personalities, accents and apparently even possible moods to the AI behind air traffic control, I am especially interested in seeing how human air traffic controller networks for flight simulation adapt services like this to their existing network.


 

This new, concentrated exposure to varying degress of artifical intelligence products that enhance the immersion and accuracy of a flight simulation experience may be a rabbit hole we explore a bit further in the near future.


 

About the Writer

Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile

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